Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Moving Wall

The Moving Wall, here shown installed at Granada, Mississippi, is coming to Eugene this fall.
My good friend Gary Bartel informed me about plans for bringing an important icon of U.S. history to Lane County this fall. Dubbed The Moving Wall, the display is a half-size replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington DC. It is 253 feet long, consisting of 74 six-foot tall aluminum panels. Each panel is painted with a two-part glossy black polyurethane, giving the surface a mirror-like finish similar to that of the original memorial. Gary, himself a Vietnam veteran, wants to publicize its coming to Eugene and help those working to bring it here by calling for volunteer help and donations in support of the exhibit. 
The Moving Wall will be on display in the grassy field at the west end of Skinner Butte Park in Eugene, beginning at noon on Thursday, September 29 through closing on Sunday, October 2. Anyone will be allowed to visit the wall, free of charge, whenever the park is open. 
The Moving Wall last visited Eugene 30 years ago, situated on exactly the same site proposed by the organizers for this year’s installation. 
Like the stone panels of the original memorial in the nation’s capital, the aluminum panels of The Moving Wall bear the names of the 58,306 Americans who lost their lives (or remain missing while in action) during the Vietnam conflict. Rather than engraved as on the original’s stone panels, the names are silk-screened. Rubbings of the names on The Moving Wall may be done using only the materials supplied at the event. 
I’ve visited, and like others been moved by, the poignant original situated at the west end of National Mall in Washington, DC. I also well remember the controversy that accompanied the 1981 unveiling of the design by Maya Lin. I found the design remarkable not only because of its originality but also because of Lin’s youth at the time (21 years old, a year younger than I was). Her competition-winning scheme sparked a heated debate that only its construction and wide acceptance would temper in due course.
The Moving Wall itself is largely the work of Vietnam veteran John Devitt, who vowed to build the traveling version after attending the 1982 dedication of the memorial. He was so impressed by the healing nature of the Wall that he devoted himself to finding a way to help others who might not have the opportunity to visit the capital to share that experience. With the help of fellow veterans, Mr. Devitt built the replica and since 1984 has toured the country with it, drawing tens of millions of visits. The demand to see The Moving Wall is extremely high, so its second trip to Eugene is very special. 
Hosting The Moving Wall is a complicated and costly endeavor. Site preparation, security, visitor assistance, advertising, and a multitude of other requirements mean the Emerald Empire Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) cannot make it happen without the help of others. The chapter asks for support of any kind: volunteer assistance, logistical skill, or financial support. To donate funds or otherwise support its effort to produce The Moving Wall event, contact the chapter’s organizing committee at The Emerald Empire Chapter is a tax-exempt 501(c)(19) veterans organization, so all donations are tax deductible. 
Interested in making a financial contribution? Make your checks payable to “Emerald Empire Chapter, MOAA” and send to P.O. Box 767, Eugene, OR 97440.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Oregon Consensus Assessment – South Willamette Special Area Zone

The City of Eugene’s plan to roll out its South Willamette Special Area Zone has met with vociferous opposition on several fronts. In response, the City commissioned Oregon Consensus—the State of Oregon’s program for public policy conflict resolution and collaborative governance—to conduct an assessment of the process the project has followed to date to see if there is an opportunity for a more cooperative path forward. Oregon Consensus completed its assessment last month and its report is now available online.
AIA-Southwestern Oregon’s Committee on Local Affairs (CoLA), of which I’m a member, hopes to be a part of whatever collaborative process Oregon Consensus designs and facilitates to foster balanced participation and dialogue about the City’s controversial SW-SAZ proposal. The following is CoLA’s letter to the mayor, city council, and city manager in which we express our willingness to become involved:
April 25, 2016
Eugene Mayor, City Council and City Manager
℅ City Manager’s Office
125 East 8th Avenue
Eugene, OR 97401 
Re: Oregon Consensus Assessment Report – South Willamette Special Area Zone 
Dear Mayor, City Councilors and City Manager: 
The Committee on Local Affairs (CoLA) of the American Institute of Architects-Southwestern Oregon Chapter concurs with the Oregon Consensus recommendations for improving the public process associated with the development of the proposed South Willamette Special Area Zone. CoLA’s support for the recommendations parallels that expressed by others who likewise want Eugene to manage its inevitable growth in as sustainable a manner as possible while ensuring its continued livability.
The Oregon Consensus assessment report recommends initially developing a process that includes key community members and representatives from the City planning department to pursue three goals. These goals are to:
  1. Build trust between the City and community members; 
  2. Improve communication among and between the City and the various community interests; and, 
  3. Develop better mutual understanding of the issues involved and the facts and data that might support decision-making.
CoLA understands shifting the present dynamic of adversarial conflict toward a process of joint inquiry, exploration, and learning will be challenging. Regardless, we firmly believe constructive communication among a diverse and inclusive group of community members is necessary. At a minimum, the groups involved must include affected homeowners and renters; business owners; those working for affordable housing and housing choice, transportation choices, climate change, and environmental protection; those who represent home builders and developers; the City of Eugene; and design professionals, including architects, landscape architects, and urban designers. We’re certain an effective, community-based planning process must involve all of these interests. 
It is noteworthy some people have expressed their distrust for the “planning elite,” believing those with specialized training on matters related to urban planning or design are only inclined toward imposing abstract, top-down planning solutions. They believe the City of Eugene planners in particular have been insensitive to the fine-grained complexity of very real and personal circumstances. We understand they may regard architects as members of this same “planning elite” but we also believe this is a reason why it is important architects be numbered among those who you may call upon to engage in any process toward identifying the path forward. Failing to include design professionals in such a process may perpetuate biases and distrust rather than break them down. 
The City intends the South Willamette Special Area Zone to be a pilot project for how to plan the future of Eugene. This is why a successful process and outcome are essential. CoLA believes this opportunity to develop constructive methods of engagement and involvement will not only help determine a path forward for South Willamette, but also provide a roadmap for all successful planning processes in the future. Ultimately, how the SW-SAZ proposal evolves hinges upon whether sufficient trust can exist to allow it to move forward. If it cannot, the prospects for the City’s other planning efforts may be bleak, as would its capacity to meet Envision Eugene goals associated with sustainability and livability. CoLA supports these goals because they are a thoughtful framework for Eugene's future. In particular, we believe that planning for population growth is essential to a healthy community.

In summation, we unequivocally endorse the Oregon Consensus recommendation to create a process to “shift the dynamic from an adversarial conflict … to a process of joint inquiry, exploration, and learning,” We hope you will act upon this recommendation and ask us to join other community groups in this important effort. If we are involved, we will pledge to help improve communication and work with everyone toward a mutual understanding and appreciation for the myriad issues and concerns associated with the SW-SAZ proposal. We’re confident Eugene can build a robust process and the trust necessary to confront our community’s future planning challenges. 

Austin Bailey, Scott Clarke, Randy Nishimura, and Travis Sheridan - Members, American Institute of Architects-Southwestern Oregon Chapter, Committee on Local Affairs 

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Livability Drinks

Photo by Jsayre64 licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

Connected Livability Professionals (CLP) is a new initiative in the Eugene-Springfield area, created to facilitate connections between green building and planning professionals and aspiring professionals with speakers, events, jobs, and each other. The group is hosting an inaugural social event on Thursday, April 21 at 5:00 PM at the Barn Light's new location on 8th Ave, between the University of Oregon campus and the river. 
The event promises to be a relaxing and enjoyable opportunity to network and connect with colleagues in the livability field. It will be the first of what CLP hopes will be regular get-togethers for like-minded individuals. There will be an opportunity for attendees to make “spotlight” announcements (short, 30-second pitches) if they have other events or opportunities to promote.  
If you want to learn more about CLP, or offer your own ideas about how it can best serve your needs, sign up for the group’s listserv at
What: Livability Drinks 
When: Thursday, April 21, 2016  - 5:00 PM 
Where: The Barn Light East - 545 E 8th Ave, Eugene, OR 97401 
RSVP if you can, or just show up!

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The CSI-Willamette Valley Chapter Wants You!

The following is a letter written by Marina Wrensch, CSI, ASLA, our 2015-2016 Construction Specifications Institute - Willamette Valley Chapter president. The letter is her plea to all CSI-WVC members to step up to the plate and become a chapter board member, assume the role of an industry leader, and make a difference in the coming 2016-2017 chapter year. I encourage you to seriously consider her invitation. I agree with everything Marina says: Volunteering for CSI is rewarding, fun, and a great way to advance your career. Read on:

Dear members of the Willamette Valley Chapter of CSI:

I am writing to you today with a request that should be considered by all of us. The chapter year comes to an end on June 30. I enjoyed very much being your 2015-2016 president and I want to thank my fellow board members Jim Chaney (president-elect), Jim Christian (treasurer), and Alley Mayer (secretary) for being active and there when we needed them. The time to elect a new board is nearly here. Unfortunately, with the exception of me as the incoming past-president, we will need to fill all of the other chapter board positions (president-elect, treasurer, secretary, and two directors at-large).

I am calling on all of you!!! We need your participation!!!

There is no chapter without leadership. The economy is picking up and everybody is busy. We noticed that during our C3 conference. Tell me about being busy: I’m the full-time working mom of a one year-old. Like you, I know busy too, but this chapter is very important to me. I have made many professional connections during my early years here and I gained so much confidence about my capabilities. Please don’t see volunteering in our/your chapter as a chore. See it as an opportunity. That is what I did, and I don’t regret it.

If you are wondering if you are fit to fill any of the board positions, refer to Chapter IV of theCSI-Willamette Valley Chapter Guide, which explains every position’s role. The short answer is YES YOU ARE! Don’t let the descriptions convince you it will take a lot of time; it doesn’t have to. Talk to a member who has been on the board, and find out what it really is all about.

Please consider participating—like I said we need your help—even if you’ve already served once or twice before on the board. Our chapter depends on your expertise. And if a board position is a bit too intimidating at this point, consider participating on a chapter committee. We need help there as well. Please contact me at or 541-485-7385, with any questions or comments. We may be giving you a call in the meantime to chat personally with you.

Thank you everyone!!!

Marina Wrensch, ASLA, LEED AP BD+C, CSI
Landscape Architect, CSI Chapter President

Sunday, April 3, 2016

R.I.P. Zaha Hadid

Dame Zaha Hadid, DBE, 1950-2016 (photo by Mary McCartney)

The news shocked the design world this past Thursday: Acclaimed Iraqi-British architect Dame Zaha Hadid died suddenly of a heart attack while undergoing treatment for bronchitis in a Miami hospital. Hadid was only 65 years old. Despite her relative youth, she left behind a remarkable legacy of both theoretical and built work. Her provocative portfolio includes the Guangzhou Opera House in China (2010), the London Aquatics Centre designed for the 2012 Olympic Games, the Heydar Aliyev Center in Baku, Azerbaijan (2013), and the Messner Mountain Museum in the Italian Alps completed last year. 

A Pritzker Prize laureate and RIBA Gold medalist, Zaha Hadid was nothing if not a consummately audacious and confident form-maker. I first became aware of her considerable talent when the jury awarded its top prize to her entry in the visionary1983 competition for The Peak in Hong Kong. I remember initially being baffled by her drawings for the project: visually disorienting and unbound by the rules of conventional perspective, they brashly demanded examination and interpretation. The radical abstraction of the Russian Suprematists and the vocabulary of the Constructivists had clearly influenced her work. Indeed, Hadid’s design for The Peak was a bravura expression of what El Lissitzky referred to in his definition of Suprematism as the “illusion of irrational space, with its infinite extensibility into the background and foreground.” The undeniable antecedents notwithstanding, I recognized what others would also appreciate: Zaha Hadid was an original.

Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, Baku, Azerbaijan

During the 90’s, the work generated by Hadid’s atelier gravitated away from aggressively angular forms (perhaps best exemplified by the Vitra campus firehouse in Weil Am Rhein, Germany) toward sensuously swooping and curvilinear volumes. In part the product of the firm’s pioneering use of parametric modeling, Zaha Hadid Architects’ dynamic, fluid, seemingly weightless, and technologically inventive designs have defined many of our current notions about the architectural avant-garde. That such remarkable work has actually been built is astonishing. 

At its best, Hadid’s design vocabulary was responsive to place (the Messner Mountain Museum being a case in point); on the other hand, its signature quality was also its greatest shortcoming. It derived its power from its global application and de facto branding as a distinctively personal style. She never allowed a genuinely organic solution to any specific design problem usurp the primacy of her aesthetic vision. Regardless, the fantastical quality of her projects has inspired a generation of architects and will enthuse generations more to believe in the power of architecture. Such poetry is a much-needed tonic for the 99% of architects like me who labor anonymously and assiduously on far less spectacular commissions. 

Guangzhou Opera House (file via Wikimedia, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license).

By all accounts, Hadid was herself bold, immodest—at times imperious—and unquestionably larger than life. For better or worse, she may have been the world’s most influential “starchitect” of recent years. Certainly, the “Queen of the Curve” inspired legions of imitators; however, none has yet to surpass her virtuosity or intellect.

Hadid’s canonization as one of architecture’s sainted is assured, but I’m left wondering whether she will truly be remembered as a meaningful contributor to the betterment of our planet or instead harshly recalled as an extravagant auteur indulging the dreams and egos of wealthy patrons. I do suspect history will eventually pronounce her the latter, and likewise judge her starchitect peers—Gehry, Koolhaas, Ingels, Calatrava, Libeskind, Prince-Ramus, et al—with similar contempt, as fellow fiddlers in the orchestra as Rome burns.

I intend no disrespect for Zaha Hadid. Her substantial accomplishments will forever survive her passing. It’s just that our world has rapidly moved past the point where we can afford the kind of profligacy and excess her most celebrated projects emblemize. May we never forget how she pushed architecture’s envelope, but let us also acknowledge how her death should likewise spur serious and timely reflection about its future as a discipline in the service of humankind.